Tactical Switch

Having tried many different approaches to tackling piracy, none of which have been overly successful. It seems that the United States needs to look to the techniques used to combat terrorism, according to a U.S. Navy commander.

With the pirates making tens of millions of dollars in ransoms, and the number of hostages rising sharply, it seems that a radical overhaul is needed in the Anti-Piracy strategy.

Vice Admiral Mark Fox, the head of U.S. naval forces in the turbulent region, said he was investigating possible links between pirates and Somali-based insurgents linked to al Qaeda but acknowledged he had no “explicit” ties.

Regardless, he believed that some of the pre-emptive techniques used to battle militants should be used to combat pirates, particularly the aggressive approach to tracking terrorist funding. He suggested the link between pirates and militants might be financial.

“I gotta look at this and go: ‘Okay, they’re both (pirates and al Shabaab militants) in Somalia. There’s a lot of money,'” said Fox, commander of naval forces in the U.S. military’s massive Central Command’s region, which includes Afghanistan.

One of the hallmarks of the war on terrorism has been the policy of pre-emptive strikes to kill would-be attackers before they can act.

But Fox noted that the European Union’s Naval Force Somalia, known as EU NAVFOR, did not want to see more lethal strikes and declined to endorse them himself.

“EU has made an explicit (statement): ‘We don’t think that increased levels of lethal tactics are the way ahead,'” Fox said.

“And don’t misquote me here: I don’t advocate that we necessarily go into a higher level of lethal activity but I do advocate broadening the overall scope of how we’re tackling the problem.”

Fox said counter-piracy forces had made remarkable gains securing the Gulf of Aden, noting that there had only been one or two incidents there since September.

But international naval forces have struggled to contain piracy in the Indian Ocean due to the vast distances involved, and Fox stressed some of the attacks were taking place close to the coast of India.

“The pirates have adapted,” he said. “They have gone places where we’re not.”

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